Pumas pummel French again

20th Oct 2007, 12:07


Winning finish for Agustín Pichot

Winning finish for Agustín Pichot

Argentina confirmed their best ever performance at a World Cup when they recorded a 34-10 win over the French to take third place on Friday.

Argentina confirmed their best ever performance at a World Cup when they recorded their second win over the French at the 2007 version of this global showpiece - a 34-10 win at Parc des Princes, Paris, on Friday.

It also means Puma captain Agustín Pichot finished his career on a winning note and can now possibly slip into retirement content that under him the team scaled its greatest heights ever.

The same goes for coach Marcello Loffreda, who moves on to coach Leicester Tigers.

They played all right. After their defeat in the semi-final Agustín Pichot declared the Pumas' World Cup was over. It certainly was not over. They came back at Parc des Princes to beat France as they have never beaten them before and scored five tries in the process.

The Pumas had 35 per cent of the ball and scored five tries to one. That figure alone tells a story - an indictment of France and praise for the resilience and concentration of the Pumas as they tackled again and again - 113 times in the 80 minutes to France's 50 times.

If there was 50-50 ball, the Pumas won it, and they made France suffer.

The last time France played at Parc des Princes they suffered a record defeat at the hands of the Springboks. Back to Parc des Princes, and they suffered another record defeat. On both occasions their fans were vocally disgruntled. France will not want to come back to Parc des Princes again.

France had chances galore, but, just as the All Blacks against them had got stuck in a pick-and-drive groove, so France tonight got stuck in a mauling groove. The Pumas have no fear for teams who want to maul against them. In the first half France had four five-metre line-outs from which they mauled - in vain. They had three tapped penalties from five metres out, from which they mauled - in vain.

All they won in the match was the penalty count. They conceded only five penalties, none in the second half, while the Pumas conceded 13 overall.

It was the most cantankerous match of the World Cup, and the silly emotion started in the first minute. Just before half-time it got worse and the Puma lock Rimas Álvarez Kairelis and the French hooker Raphaël Ibañez were sent to the sin bin - Alvarez for repeated infringement by his team, Ibañez for using his boot on Alvarez. That ended Ibañez's match. His last act on an international field of play may have been to fling his waterbottle petulantly in the direction of the touch judge who had reported him. He was interviewed after the match and was not in generous mood either, warning the Pumas that the French would get them next time.

The blood between the two sides seemed bad, even after the final whistle when the Pumas were exuberant, the French sore.

Fortunately for the game, the second half was better mannered.

France started the match running the ball. They looked for opportunities to counter-attack, mainly through the dashing play of Clément Poitrenaud who was the only French player to emerge with his reputation enhanced.

Three things happened in this time of French dominance. First French handling was wobbly. Second the Pumas tackled and contested the post-tackle. It did not matter who had to tackle, he did it. If prop Rodrigo Roncero had to tackle wing Aurélien Rougerie, he did so. Third, the Pumas looked to run whenever possible even when well back in their own territory.

For all their territory and possession all France had to show for it in the whole of the first half was a penalty after 17 minutes which gave them a short-lived lead. The penalty was for the second of four infringements by Patricio Albacete. France's lead lasted three minutes. The Pumas got into French territory and Jérôme Thion was the one with the guilty hands. Felipe Contepomi kicked the goal. 3-all.

France came back. Frédéric Michalak, who did not have much of a game, kicked a high up-and-under, which Ignacio Corleto fumbled but the Argentinians scrambled and cleared. Twice France looked certain to score tries but twice they were pulled back for forward passes. France had their three five-metre line-outs at this stage which produced mauls and heaps of players squirming on the ground like earthworms. They broke with this for a high diagonal by Michalak for tall Aurélien Rougerie but the blond wing knocked on.

Instead the Pumas scored. They broke out of the French stranglehold and went left, then right, then back left. Hooker Alberto Vernet Basualdo charged ahead for the line. He was tackled but the Pumas got the ball back and Pichot took a step to his left and then passed to Felipe Contepomi who burst between Yannick Nyanga and Imanol Harinordoquy for a try far out. Felipe Contepomi converted. 10-3 to the Pumas after 28 minutes.

But somehow one expected the French machine to get more and more oiled and to start running in tries. That certainly did not happen.

Juan Martín Hernández dropped at goal but the ball bounced back off the upright. The Pumas got the ball off France when the French were careless at a tackle/ruck and Basualdo snapped up the ball and charged towards the French line. There in that heap, veteran prop Omar Hasan got the ball down for a try which the TMO confirmed. Felipe Contepomi converted. 17-3 after 31 minutes.

It was astounding.

The French mauled to the Argentinian line but were stopped and went wide left for Christophe Dominici, and they had their series of three tapped penalties in a period of bad temper. But it all turned to dross for France as the Pumas tackled and tackled.

The French started the second half with another maul from a line-out as if this was going to be their salvation. Instead, when Poitrenaud broke out of deep defence and raced down the field, one would have thought that this was really the way to go. It was not the way they went.

Instead the Pumas scored the try of the match - a great try. The start was innocuous, it seemed. Rougerie chipped and Felipe Contepomi knocked the ball back to Ignacio Corleto. The burly full-back beat at least four Frenchmen and then passed inside to Manuel Contepomi who managed to control the high ball on the Puma left. They went right. Albacete had a hand in it and then Hernández threw the best pass of the 2007 Rugby World Cup - a long one with the left hand and Federico Martin Aramburu stepped inside to score. 22-3 to Argentina after 53 minutes.

The Pumas lost Juan Manuel Leguizamón to the sin bin for a tackle that knocked Sébastien Chabal flat. The tackle was judged to be high and with the shoulder. Chabal stayed down,. looking seriously wounded. But as soon as Leguizamón was on his way to the sin bin the Caveman recovered rapidly and fully.

Now France were playing against 14, and the Pumas scored again!

France were attacking and Roncero won a turn-over. The Pumas sent the ball wide to the left where Horacio Agulla got away from his man before giving to Corleto on the half-way line and the full-back raced down the field for a try in